3 Not-So-Obvious Exercises to Combat Achilles Pain

Achilles Tendonitis: A Guide To Best Cardio Exercise For Runners

What Is Achilles Tendinopathy?

The Achilles tendon (tendons are like little tendrils) is one of the four major muscles of your foot. It attaches from the inside of your shin bone to the outside of your big toe. When it gets injured, it causes pain when you walk or run.

Achilles tendonitis is a common injury among runners. It’s caused by overuse and overstretching of the Achilles tendon. The most common cause is running too much, especially during training runs. Other possible causes include wearing shoes with low heels, poor form while jogging or walking, and improper stretching before and after workouts.

The most likely way to treat an acute case of Achilles tendinopathy is surgery.

When Should You See Your Doctor About Achilles Tendinopathy?

If you have had any kind of Achilles tendonitis in the past, see your doctor right away. If you’re not sure if you’ve already had a problem, ask your coach or other runners around you. If they don’t think so, then wait until the symptoms get worse before seeing a physician. It’s much better to catch a potential injury early on than letting it get worse.

If you’re suffering from a sudden and severe pain in your heel or ankle, that’s also a good time to see a medical professional. He or she will be able to take an x-ray and properly diagnose the problem. In that case, rest is probably all you need to do. See your doctor if you notice the pain hasn’t gone down after a few weeks of resting.

What Can Be Done to Prevent Achilles Tendonitis?

There are a few different ways of preventing injury. The first is common sense: don’t overdo it. If your coach says to run two miles, don’t run four. While this is good advice for any beginning runner, it’s especially important for those who have had Achilles tendonitis in the past. If you’re already prone to this type of injury, all it takes is a little too much running for it to flare up again.

When you do work out, make sure to stretch and warm up first. To prevent straining your heels, try visualizing that you’re running on bubbles. Keep your posture straight and don’t lean forward or backward too much. If you’re a heel-striker, try to transition into being a forefoot striker.

This involves gradually increasing the amount of time your foot spends hitting the ground ahead of your heels. Also, try running barefoot or in very light shoes. This will strengthen your feet and lower legs, preventing injury in the future.

When It Comes To Cures, Is Surgery Always Necessary?

Surgery is often used to reattach a torn or damaged Achilles tendon. If you have severe pain, the doctor will likely cut the tendon and reattach it to the correct position. Most of the time, you’ll be able to walk on it normally again within a few weeks.

Surgery isn’t always necessary, though. Your doctor might be able to cut out the damaged or torn part of the tendon and sew the rest back together. In most cases, this doesn’t cause any problems in the future.

However, if you’ve had this problem before or you’re getting older (over 40), your doctor might advise against it. There’s a greater chance of it happening again if the tendon has been damaged, so your doctor will use a more careful approach.

Do I Need Surgery?

If you haven’t thought about surgery before, now might be the time to consider it. The longer you wait, the more likely it is that your tendinopathy will get worse. If you’ve already managed to keep it at a dull ache rather than a sharp pain, you’re probably going to be okay.

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That being said, the pain could start to increase. If you start to feel a grating or grinding sensation when moving your foot or you feel a sudden pop, it’s time to seek medical attention. Go see your doctor right away if this is the case.

If your tendon has ruptured, you need to have surgery immediately. The longer you wait, the worse your recovery process will be.

Do I Need to Stop Running Altogether?

This really is going to depend on your specific situation. If you’ve torn your tendon or had surgery in the past, your doctor might advise against running altogether. If this is the case, he or she will likely recommend some other form of cardiovascular exercise, such as swimming or biking. Keep in mind that if you take up swimming, you’ll still need to keep your weight down. Many former runners gain a lot of weight when they stop running.

However, if this is your first time dealing with a torn tendon or tendinitis, your doctor might advise you to stick to a reduced training schedule for a few weeks or even months. This should give the injury time to heal. Once this happens, you can slowly start running again. Start out slow and gradually increase the distance you run.

If at any point you feel pain or excessive soreness, you need to back off again.

It is possible you might need to make some adjustments to your running style (more on this later). If this is the case, it could be a few months before the tendon heals enough for you to return to your normal training schedule.

The good news is that tendons are much tougher than muscles and require a lot more trauma before they get damaged. It takes a lot more than just running to cause tendinopathy, so don’t feel too bad. If you do have to take some time off, you can always listen to your favorite podcasts as you recover!

Treatments for Other Possible Causes

If you’ve noticed some of the other possible causes of your injury, your doctor will also advise you on how to treat those as well.

If you’ve been running on hard surfaces or in worn out shoes for example, your doctor might advise you to switch to a softer surface like grass or a running track and invest in a new pair of supportive running shoes.

If you’ve noticed that your running style is throwing off your gait or causing you to put extra stress on your feet, hips or legs, your doctor will teach you the proper way to run. This might involve a few simple drills or it might require some physical therapy.

3 Not-So-Obvious Exercises to Combat Achilles Pain - Image

If your running is causing other health problems, such as sleep apnea or low back pain, your doctor will probably refer you to a specialist, such as an endocrinologist and a physical therapist respectively. He or she can advise you on how to properly treat those conditions while you are rehabilitating from your injury.

Regardless of the cause, most cases of achilles tendonitis can be treated with the same methods. Once your injury has been diagnosed, your doctor will be able to advise you on the best way to treat it and how long you’ll need to treat it for. The good news is that you shouldn’t need surgery. If the above scenarios match your case, just heed your doctor’s advice and rest and treat your injury.

You should be back to running again soon!

What If I Need Surgery?

Most cases of achilles tendonitis can be treated without surgery. The treatment options are nearly identical except you won’t be able to run for as long. You’ll still need to focus on rest and recovery, but you’ll also have to start doing physical therapy. Your doctor will advise you on the best treatment plan for your injury depending on the severity.

How Long Will It Be Until I Can Run Again?

Sources & references used in this article:

Intricacies of dose in laser phototherapy for tissue repair and pain relief by CS Enwemeka – Photomedicine and Laser Surgery, 2009 – liebertpub.com

Trigger point therapy and plantar heel pain: A case report by BM Nguyen – The Foot, 2010 – Elsevier

Cerebral palsy gait, clinical importance by RD Tugui, D Antonescu – Maedica, 2013 – ncbi.nlm.nih.gov

Human postural sway results from frequent, ballistic bias impulses by soleus and gastrocnemius by ID Loram, CN Maganaris, M Lakie – The journal of physiology, 2005 – Wiley Online Library

Photochemical Tissue Bonding Technique for Improving Healing of Hand Tendon Injury by B Ding, X Wang, M Yao – Surgical innovation, 2019 – journals.sagepub.com